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2012 NBA Draft: Bulls pass on strong wing prospects for Kentucky PG Marquis Teague; goodbye, C.J.

BALL! (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
BALL! (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Bulls selection of Marquis Teague, 19-year-old NCAA Champion Kentucky point guard, was a shock; but not only for his position.

Earlier in the day, K.C. Johnson re-tweeted a report from a New York reporter expecting the Bulls to be targeting Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor at #29. The insinuation was consistent with loud whispers that the Bulls would pass on their team option to keep C.J. Watson next season for $3.2 million; and Taylor would be backing up a veteran starter while Derrick Rose recovers from ACL surgery.

The shock was that Teague was even available. Most boards had him as a top three PG in this draft behind Damien Lillard and Kendall Marshall; or in the top four with the 6' 5" true combo guard Tony Wroten ahead of him. Lillard was expectedly picked at #6 and Marshall was picked in the lottery a handful of spots ahead of expectations.

Marshall was almost uncontroversially the Mavericks' top target. With him gone, they selected Tyler Zeller at #17 and traded him for control of the Cavs' final three three picks at #24, #33, and #34. Dallas threw a huge curveball by selecting projected second rounder Jared Cunningham at #24, leaving the Grizzles with the choice of Teague and Wroten to fill a point guard need.

The Grizz picked Wroten at #25. The Pacers passed up on adding Teague, instead choosing to add athletic seven-footer Miles Plumee at #26. The Heat and Thunder had no intention of going small and with highly ranked bigger players still available, it was clear Teague would fall into the Bulls' laps.

Teague was selected over Quincy Miller, Jeffrey Taylor, Orlando Johnson, Festus Ezeli, Tyshawn Taylor, Doron Lamb, and the consensus expectation Will Barton.

It's difficult to look at the Bulls' weaknesses in the rotation spots which demand 25+ MPG on a nightly basis. But the Bulls may have selected the best player available; and the rule of thumb is -- especially outside of the lottery -- is that you shouldn't pass on the best player available, regardless of position, because chances for low first round picks to add value are so slim.

Stats and scouting

2011-12 Kentucky SEC 40 32.6 3.6 8.8 .412 0.7 2.0 .325 2.1 3.0 .714 2.5 4.8 0.9 0.3 2.7 2.3 10.0
Career Kentucky 40 32.6 3.6 8.8 .412 0.7 2.0 .325 2.1 3.0 .714 2.5 4.8 0.9 0.3 2.7 2.3 10.0
Season School Conf PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG%
2011-12 Kentucky SEC 13.2 .491 .449 1.6 6.6 4.4 25.6 1.7 0.8 21.1 20.2
Career Kentucky 13.2 .491 .449 1.6 6.6 4.4 25.6 1.7 0.8 21.1 20.2
Provided by View Original Table; Generated 6/28/2012.

Teague isn't big enough to play the wing. He's only 6' 2", but a -- well -- freakish athlete. And not a circus act that will never translate to the NBA, but a player with speed, agility, and insane hops that ought to translate very well to the NBA, as a dangerous player in the open floor with pick n' roll penetration skills to fit right in to the Bulls' inside-out, board crashing second-chance game, Mike Schmitz's scouting report with the help of John Calipari and Jay Bilas suggests:

His speed and method fit into how Tom Thibodeau likes his point guard to use the dribble to move the defense while others create off the ball, find lanes to drive, and finish with the confidence of trailing rebounders. And his physical attributes with a coach like Thibodeau makes the mind run wild of his potential as a defender.

"He's another guy who can break defenses down, get in the paint, and make plays for himself," Bulls GM Gar Forman said Thursday evening.

The 500-pound gorilla in the room

The magic question: But who cares, because point guard is arguably the least important defensive position?

OK, the real question:

The Bulls already have an MVP point guard whom the organization expects to log 35+ MPG for at least the next six years, so no matter how good Teague becomes, when does this value get added?

Honestly, I don't know; and the Bulls probably don't either, but will do their damnedest to sell you on "can't have too much depth" narrative.

What I can do is speculate is that the Bulls are questioning Rose's long-term viability as a point guard, as the 76ers did with Allen Iverson at an inflection point; that maybe more minutes in small backcourts in shifts as the secondary ball handler -- the de facto SG -- is optimal for his health, so he can rest more often on offense.

But, again, I'm honestly just guessing and assuming the Bulls had a 'best player available' approach and were shocked someone so high on their overall board fell in their laps.

Serious concern

There's a lot of stop for caution when I see a point guard with a 101.7 offensive rating on a team with a 116.6 rating, as Teague did on last year's NCAA Champion Kentucky Wildcats. His turnover rate is very scary coming into an offense which demands the point guard do a ton of movements at various speeds with the ball.

He shot a very respectable .368 3P% (7-for-19) in March and April when the pressure was at its highest during tournament play, but only .311 in the first 29 games (19-for-61), adding to the narrative of him getting better as the season went along.

But the turnovers weren't much lower and the lowered volume of threes raises valid questions of his NBA range.

Four of the six players I ranked over Teague were still available. Those four were picked at #31 (J. Taylor - Bobcats), #36 (Johnson - Kings, traded to the Pacers), #38 (Miller - Warriors), #40 (Barton - Trail Blazers), so I'd be completely disingenuous to suggest the Bulls maximized the return for the only pick they possessed in a draft so deep.

In any other draft a player like Teague is a huge steal at #29, but this wasn't any other draft. It was a draft where four players projected to be lottery picks in 2011 fell out of the lottery after an extra year in school.

There weren't just options to full the gaping hole at shooting guard, but players with combinations of NBA length and agility to add to both ends of the floor, versatility, shooting, ball handling, and IQs to create shots on and off the ball. The value gap between Teague, a projected #25 pick, and the actual #40 pick is so tight that "best player available" is difficult to articulate for anyone at that spot.

Sure, he was the point guard on an NCAA national champion; but so was Mateen Cleaves.

Teague is going to be a good player for what he is, and may become a good starter sooner rather than later. But if he progresses well early, he'll get too expensive to keep with a salary too low to trade for good value; if he doesn't, then, he's a bust. Teague's maximum value for the Bulls may have been in the minutes between when the Bulls picked him and the 34th, 35th, or 36th picks were made; maybe there is some grand scheme to get Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, using Teague to fill serious needs for the Lakers or Magic.

But, again, maybe Rose is the shooting guard of the future for this franchise; and no one knows it yet.